Let’s start with a trick question: Do you know what “drones” are?
Me neither. Or, more accurately, I didn’t know until March 20th, when I attended the “Three Women Who Stand for Peace: International Civil Rights in the Age of Drones” panel on campus. Now not only I know about drones, but I know a whole bunch of other things I had no clue about before.
Like for example that a lot of what the government tells you about development in countries like Iraq or Afghanistan is bullshit.
Okay, I might have suspected that one already! But now, thanks to Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright, and Kathy Kelly I have more evidence.
Medea, Ann, and Kathy are three women who have made their business to fight for the world peace and to inform the public about what is really going on behind the scenes. They should know – they travel all around the world and talk to people, which means that they often see things happening very differently than what we later see in the media.
Let’s look at their credentials:
Retired Army Col. Ann Wright spent 29 years in the Army and 16 years serving as a U.S. diplomat, before she quit in 2003 in protest to the war with Iraq. Ever since, she has been working relentlessly in increasing awareness about drones, their impact on civilians in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan and the danger they present for American public.
You are probably wondering by now what the hell drones are and why I keep bringing them up. This is what a pamphlet from Voices for Creative Non-Violence says:
Drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are unmanned aircraft initially designed to collect various forms of data through surveillance. In recent years, they have been equipped with weapons designed to strike a target at a moment’s notice.
What it means, according to Col. Ann Wright, is that in countries like, say, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, if you are a male between 18 – 30, all what it takes is a suspicion that you might be involved in terrorist activities and you are taken down without the opportunity to surrender and/ or being tried in the court. Ann, who spoke with dozens of families of drone victims over the years, thinks that this is very much not okay, especially coming from the country that is supposed to PROTECT human rights around the world, which so many Americans like to believe is what we are doing.
Due to the number of conflicting reports, it is difficult to reach a comprehensive estimate of deaths from drone attacks. One estimate claims that since the beginning of the drone war in Pakistan in 2006, there have been approximately 50 civilian casualties for every one militant casualty (Bergen, P. Revenge of the Drones. New America. 19 Oct 2009). Another source shows up to 2,100 civilians have been killed over the course of 283 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. (Pakistan Bodycount).
Oh. And one of the drone thingies can cost anywhere from $2 million to $15 million. No wonder that there is not enough money for healthcare, isn’t it?!
Another issue with drones, and that should be a concern for all of us, including the individuals who don’t give a shit about what’s happening in exotic countries that are not America, is that the government has been using drones to infiltrate citizens’ e-mails, phones, and other forms of (private) communication under the Patriot Act. If you think that you are an American citizen and as such have a right of privacy, you are sadly mistaken.
Let’s move on to another activist: Medea Benjamin, the founder of the peace group Code Pink. She is also big on drones, but additionally advocates for human rights in general, especially those of women and children from all around the world. She was kicked out from a press conference for interrupting President Obama’s speech about the War of Terror, which she did because he was full of shit (she didn’t use EXACTLY these words when she was telling us the story, but her message was crystal clear, trust me!). She had her arm in a sling during the panel because when she was arrested in Cairo, where her plane landed on her way to a women’s conference in Gaza, the guards dragged her in and out of her cell to the point of dislocating her shoulder.
Medea is 61 years old. One might think that a lady in early 60s would be reluctant to put herself into a situation like that – but we are talking about the woman who voluntarily went to Baghdad after the war started, so she could find Occupation Watch Center and serve as a watchdog of what the American military forces were REALLY doing in that country. When you are this brave, I guess one dislocated shoulder couldn’t stop you…
And then we have Kathy Kelly, the coordinator of the Voices for Creative Non-Violence, which is the organization that printed the pamphlet I quoted from above. A two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, she gave a powerful testimony about Afghanistan and about human rights (or, more accurately, lack of thereof) of Afghans, which the U.S. is supposed to protect. Feel free to guess what’s Kathy’s position on this :)
I wish I had more time and space to write about the panel, because trust me, I’m not doing those brave, wonderful ladies any justice here! Listening to them was such a powerful experience that it’s impossible to replicate in a blog. The best I can do is to summarize their shared mission, which I will do as follows:
1) When it comes to international politics, and ESPECIALLY the wars, do not kid yourself that the government will tell you the truth, and question, question, question! The government will ALWAYS make shit up to justify its military actions in the world.
2) The United States like to present itself as the world’s leader of democracy and protector of human rights, but its actions are often inconsistent with this mission statement.
3) Drones are dangerous. They are currently killing civilians all over the world and invading people’s privacy at home. Chances are, both issues are going to get worse if left unchecked.
4) Barrack Obama should have never received the Nobel Peace Prize.
If you are experiencing some emotional discomfort when reading these lines, I can assure you that I’m right there with you! Those who know me in person know perfectly well how much I love this country and how difficult it is for me to acknowledge that it often does, well, shitty things. But blind patriotism and lack of critical thinking is not doing anybody any service. We DO have the potential to be the greatest country in the world, but not if we allow the government to serve the interests of the (in) famous 1% instead of ALL citizens and to treat the whole rest of the world like an American colony. Let’s take advantage of people like Ann, Kathy, and Medea, who are willing to do the dirty work to educate us and to increase awareness!